Britain makes no bones about it –We can’t afford everything

The lead story in today’s Wall Street Journal (Britain Stirs Outcry by Weighing Benefits of Drugs Versus Price) describes the matter-of-fact approach the UK takes toward expensive treatments. If a drug or procedure is too expensive relative to the benefit it provides, it’s not paid for.

“There is not a bottomless pit of resources,” says Phil Wadeson, finance director for the National Health Service unit that oversees hospitals and doctors’ offices in Liverpool. “We reached the point a while ago where there is far more medical intervention available than any health-care system can afford.”

It’s interesting that the debate in the UK has now shifted to whether the calculations are being done properly rather than whether they should be done in the first place.

The article focuses on drugs for Alzheimer’s, which is a good place to start considering that most of the drugs can”t do much once the patient is so far gone. A newer area of focus for drug companies is in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) –a precursor to Alzheimer’s. The objective there is to prevent MCI from turning into full-blown Alzheimer’s.

A lot of innovative work is being done in MCI. For example, The Brain Resource Company (a MedPharma Partners client) and Aspect Medical have just announced a clinical study that will use The Brain Resource Company’s advanced imaging and cognitive batteries to develop biomarkers for MCI.

November 22, 2005

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